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Mt. Allen 12/22 Attempt and question

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  • Mt. Allen 12/22 Attempt and question

    Underestimated a lot on this trip and ended up turning around at around 5.5 miles in when I couldn't quickly cross the Lower Twin Brook.

    I had grand plans of pulling into the parking lot and seeing a lot full of others with the same idea as me. Knock out Allen, hopefully winter peak 19 for me, for their first winter peak of the season on a beautiful day. I pulled into the lot and was the only car.

    Started jamming along and the warm day coupled with a melting snow made for a ton of work breaking trail. No big deal, that's why I like hiking and why I like winter hiking.

    I ended up turning around at the Lower Twin Brook crossing. I had absolutely no idea how to cross it. I hiked up and down the brook looking for a way across. I finally started doing the math in my head and realized I didn't want to hike out in the dark solo and I didn't want to try and cross this brook potentially in the dark. Anybody have any advice on crossing this puppy in winter?

    Ah well, I think the mountain will be there later in the season.
    Last edited by TheNatrix; 12-23-2018, 11:25 AM.

  • #2
    I would have done same! Even if you can cross it in the morning, with a full afternoon of snow-melt the same brook would have been even more challenging in the afternoon. We are working on our 46 and a third of them happen to have been hikes with snow. A snow covered creek sure looks purty but a scary logistical puzzle.
    Eyes on the Forest, not on the Trees


    • #3
      Tenderfoot is right- on warm winter days with a decent amount of snowmelt, you have to remember that it's not just how high the water is in the morning, but how high it will be in the afternoon when you return to re-cross that same stream. Allen especially has a reputation for trapping hikers behind raging torrents of water in the afternoon/evening that were nothing but a small trickle of water in the morning. I will also add that if the Lower Twin Brook crossing was challenging in the moment, then the Skylight Brook crossing likely would've been even more difficult to cross safely.

      (Street and Nye share a similar reputation with Indian Pass Brook, as do the Dixes from the north with the Boquet River crossings. Even Indian Falls on the VanHoevenberg Trail has been known to trap hikers as well.)

      IMO, Allen is probably a peak that is worth saving for later in Winter, even though the snow will be deeper. Come February, longer days and temperatures that are more consistently below freezing will decrease the potential challenges for this peak somewhat, provided that you are prepared for the cold and the snow. Picking a cold day after an extended deep freeze will especially help to ensure that any stream crossings will be mostly frozen over and less of a challenge. This is also a peak that can also be done a bit more quickly if skis are used for the long, flat approach- when I climbed Allen in Winter, I skied to a short distance beyond the gravel pit with the register box, and switched to snowshoes for the remainder of the climb. I think that this definitely saved on some time and effort.

      I will also add that despite the increased popularity of Winter High Peaks that results in most of the peaks getting broken out quickly after heavy snowfall- Allen is the one peak that, for obvious reasons, does at times buck this trend. If there's a peak that is best tackled with a group (so that trail breaking responsibilities can be split as well as for safety reasons), then this is the one. (Even though they get a bit more winter visitation than Allen, the Santanonis and Sewards share similar characteristics and are good peaks to climb as part of a group if possible, for the same reasons.)

      FWIW, there is an alternate approach that does save a a little bit on some distance and elevation gain, although it still has a challenging stream crossing without the aid of a bridge. Use this map that I've quickly put together along with the following instructions:
      • Follow the East River Trail in to the Opalescent Bridge at Marker A. Immediately after crossing the river, the marked trail turns left to continue northward. Instead of following the marked trail, look for an obvious and well-worn herd path to the right. Follow this herd path south along the Opalescent River. You soon come to Dudley Brook- this must be forded (this crossing can be challenging or even dangerous if the water is up).
      • Immediately after crossing Dudley Brook, you'll find a clearing on the banks of the Opalescent River that was obviously used as a campsite when the area was privately owned. Continue south through the clearing and pick up a logging road. The logging road will soon making a sharp left turn at Marker B to the east, and start to climb up and away from the river. You'll pass through a few more larger clearings, then enter mixed forest as the road continues to gain elevation.
      • After climbing on gentle to moderate grades for about a half mile, you'll reach a T-junction at Maker C. Turn left here, to the north. The road will begin to descend along a very gentle grade.
      • You'll soon come to a very large clearing at Maker D, the former site of a hunting camp when the area was privately owned. The main road continues northward here, but if you look across the clearing to the right, you'll see another road that climbs an embankment and continues eastward out of the clearing. Turn right to follow this road to the east.
      • This road continues eastward for some distance, passing through occasional clearings along the way, and crossing some streams that tend to be small and are typically easy to hop across. The USGS map shows the road ending at Marker E, but it actually continues about another mile further east, ending in and old clearing that is quickly reverting to forest, just beyond a small beaver pond at Marker F.
      • If you walk to the north side of the overgrown clearing mentioned above, you'll find an obvious, maintained herd path that continues to the northeast. Follow this path. Before long, you'll be following the east banks of Skylight Brook. The herd path is generally easy to follow, although it is a bit brushy in spots- if you lose it, just stick to the east bank of Skylight Brook and you'll pick it up again before long. The path does get a bit obscure across the last 50 to 100 feet before arriving at the traditional herd path at Marker G, in the closed campsite at the Skylight Brook crossing. From here you can follow the traditional route up the slide on Allen to the summit.

      A couple of important notes concerning this route:
      • Dudley Brook is a little bit more challenging of a stream crossing than either Lower Twin Brook or Skylight Brook, so don't plan on using this route as an alternative that will remove stream crossings from the equation.
      • For those using this route over the course of the next year, keep in mind that even though the state owns the land and there is public access to the state-owned portion of the old logging roads, there is still private motor vehicle access to the logging roads until the end of September, 2019. So don't be surprised if you come across a truck on one of the logging roads during the warmer months.
      • With skis especially, this route would make things substantially easier, I think. You'd probably have to take your skis off for the Dudley Brook crossing, but anyone with some experience on skis ought to be able to make it as far as the end of the road at Marker F before switching to snowshoes without much difficulty, and even going as far on skis as the old crossing on Skylight Brook at Marker G would not be tremendously difficult.

      My understanding is that the above route is actually the old "official" route to Allen that was once promoted by the 46ers and the DEC. The route took hikers directly past multiple hunting camps on the then-privately owned MacIntyre East Tract along the way, however, and so it was shifted north to the present-day herd path to accommodate those camp lessee's desire for privacy . With the acquisition of the MacIntyre East Tract by the state, the old route is again open to the public. I have no qualms about sharing this route here- it's been recently discussed publicly on multiple online hiking forums. It also follows established logging roads for about 80-90% of its length, with established herd paths making up the remainder of the distance- so the potential for added impacts is pretty minimal.

      I suspect in the short term, as more people find out about it, the above route will quickly become the "preferred" approach to Allen, and the old herd path between the East River Trail and Skylight Brook will start to fade into obscurity. The long run is more interesting- once the road into Boreas Ponds is opened to the public, it will present a significantly shorter approach to the peak in just about any case. As it is, a 3.2 mile hike from the planned parking area at Boreas, entirely along established logging roads, will get you to White Lily Pond, which is just barely over 2 miles (as the crow flies) from the summit of Allen Mountain. A new state trail is planned that will run about 2.5 miles through the notch between Allen Mountain and Cheney Cobble, connecting White Lily Pond to the Skylight Brook/Dudley Brook area. I suspect that a herd path (if not a marked trail) to the summit from the height of land in the notch is probably inevitable- if the state doesn't build a proper path, some idiot will cut one out anyways, or at the very least, one will form though use- the possibility of a substantially shorter approach will be too much for some to resist. White Lily Pond is also a very attractive body of water, and I suspect that the vicinity will quickly become a camping hot spot.

      I did some quick calculations following a somewhat-sustainable route up the south face of the peak and found that the overall distance of such a route would be about 7 to 7.5 miles one way from the Boreas parking area, or 14 to 15 miles round trip, a savings of about 3 miles over the present route. (The "idiot" route would likely ascend the grade directly from the notch and be even shorter- I calculate such a likely route to be about 11.2 miles round trip.) Even if no new trail (official or illegal) gets cut up the south face of Allen, the Boreas approach to the old Skylight Brook route will still be a bit shorter than the Upper Works approach, at just shy of 16 miles round trip.

      Of course, the road into Boreas is planned to become a snowmobile trail so winter car access to that trailhead will not be possible, so this doesn't really help aspiring Winter 46ers much. The Opalescent approach to Allen will likely remain the preferred Winter approach indefinitely.

      Sorry for the rambling tangents at the end of my post- I hope some of the context in the first part is useful to you when you return to tackle Allen again.


      • #4
        If the water level and velocity are not too high for comfort, you can put on heavy duty plastic contractor’s bags or can liners. This works especially for short crossings like lower Twin Brook or Santanoni Brook at the junction of the Express trail. Obviously leaks can occur due to abrasion, but if you are quick it will work and the weight you carry for ‘insurance’ is minimal.

        This is less likely to work on a stream like Skylight Brook which typically runs a lot faster and contains huge boulders.

        Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk


        • #5
          Interesting ramble about the southern approach to Allen. Was curious about that while gazing endlessly at that view from Boreas while camping there 2 summers ago. You can ski to White Lily Pond, no? I think the road goes all the way there after it crosses the north arm of Boreas Ponds. Would be cool winter adventure- ski to BP or WLP and then choose your own adventure from there to Allen. Ah, to dream...


          • #6
            Old Allen Approach / New Allen Approach

            Dating myself, I can confirm that the route mentioned by DSettahr was the established route to Allen in the 1970's. When I first climbed Allen in 1977 we stayed at the now removed Twin Brook Lean-to. The trail forked here, the left fork heading to Flowed Lands via Hanging Spear Falls, the right fork heading to Uphill Brook Lean-to (since relocated) and on to Mount Marcy. This abandoned trail was called the Sanford Lake - Marcy Trail. It offered another day hike approach to Marcy, a bit long (22.5 miles RT) but doable. The present herdpath at the former location of Twin Brook Lean-to did not exist at that time. We had to backtrack down the yellow trail 1.5 miles to where the gravel road used to ford the Opalescent River. Crossing the river we would pass by the former location of the East River Rod & Gun Club. This approach is outlined in the Adirondack Mountain Club's Eighth edition of their High Peaks Guide.


            • #7
              For this new, old route, are the majority of hikers using it now?

              While paying special attention to the turns/intersections, is the trail easy enough to follow once it gets down to herd path? Or do you always have to be on your game to not get lost?

              Are enough people taking this route where you can follow the 'human trail'? E.g. foot prints, marks from trekking poles on rocks, packed down snow, etc.

              Also, it sounds like camp sites 150' off the trail might be easier on this new route?
              Last edited by trent; 04-09-2019, 10:04 AM.


              • #8
                Originally posted by trent View Post
                For this new, old route, are the majority of hikers using it now?

                While paying special attention to the turns/intersections, is the trail easy enough to follow once it gets down to herd path? Or do you always have to be on your game to not get lost?

                Are enough people taking this route where you can follow the 'human trail'? E.g. foot prints, marks from trekking poles on rocks, packed down snow, etc.

                Also, it sounds like camp sites 150' off the trail might be easier on this new route?
                I know this is an older post but here's a response anyways:

                The herd path portion is pretty easy to follow except for the final few hundred feet where it connects to the "traditional" herd path. I think even when the "old" route was closed to the public, those with access (via the hunting club leases) would use the old route, and it's obvious that the herd path portion received some level of maintenance (and DEC rangers have also always have access from private property to the south for patrolling as well as search and rescue).

                I'd say that the significant majority of hikers are still following the "traditional" route. But again, apart from the final few hundred feet of the herd path, anyone with decent backcountry navigational skills (i.e., comfortable with map and compass) shouldn't have much difficulty following the "old" route.

                As far as finding campsites that conform with the 150' rule- I'd say it's marginally easier to do so along the "old" route. When the area was privately owned, much of the timber was harvested, and the result is that a lot of the forest is fairly young, with dense small trees. There are plans by the DEC to add a few designated tent sites in the area at some point in the not-too-distant future, though.


                • #9
                  Old timers will remember this old Allen approach well. Per the excellent write up by DSettahr, I'll add a few comments. The site just after you cross Dudley Brook was known as the "trailer" site in the old days. The president of the East River Rod and Gun Club had his trailer at this spot. Hikers could see it from the trail across the Opalescent River, 5 minutes or so before they crossed the old (and now replaced) Opalescent bridge. On numerous occasions I've waded across the Opalescent here and joined the road system (without crossing the replaced bridge 5 minutes upstream). At the road junction labelled "D" by DSettahr where the hiker takes the road to the right (if coming in from the old trailer site), is where the old East River Rod and Gun Club's clubhouse used to stand. It was on the left at that junction. In the old days, we usually combined Allen with Cliff and Redfield as a two-nighter. We did this utilizing the old Twin Brook trail through the pass between Cliff and Redfield. We would camp at Uphill Brook's old leanto, hike Redfield from the height of the pass across from where you now turn to the right to start the steep climbing up Cliff. We would do Cliff back then by the slide 20 - 25 minutes further along the old Twin Brook Trail (20 minutes beyond the right you now take to head up Cliff). Then we would head to Allen by following the Twin Brook Trail until it joined the East River Club road and we would turn left here (passing the current large cleared spot where the trail register now stands and where the Allen herd trail leaves the dirt road). We stayed on the dirt road, (passed a road coming in from the left which was a short-cut to Skylight Brook but rarely taken) and got to the Club House and junction mentioned previously. Here we turned left immediately passing the club's shooting range on the right, passed 2 camps and headed to Allen as described. This to me is a much more fun and interesting approach to Allen and hopefully it will become popular again...and some adventurous soul should follow the old slide up Cliff (Neil?)...